Tim Burton and Danny Elfman is a pairing of talents that is made in heaven or at least made in a parallel world which is filled with odd and unhinged dark things that delight and fright all at the same time. So, I was a little surprised when Tim Burton’s most recent cinematic project came to the screen minus the ample talents of Mr Elfman. The film which is positively dark and suitably weird would have probably benefitted greatly from the magical musical touch of Elman, but do not fret or fear Burton’s latest imagining for the silver screen is in safe hands with composers Mike Higham and Matthew Margeson. This talented composing duo have created a succulent and inviting work that not only enhances the off kilter goings on at MISS PEREGRINES HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, but elevates and underlines the occurrences and the somewhat shadowy and unpredictable storyline superbly. To be fair some of the musical passages are not dissimilar to the style of Danny Elman with their cheeky and impish nuances being put to excellent and effective use by the composers. Maybe the score is not as mad cap or even as manic as some of Elfman’s work for Burton, but it is still highly effective and innovative, punctuating and supporting the warped and strange world that is being brought to life on screen. This is a score that is filled with themes that are at times low key and even calming, but these are also themes that has something of a dual personality and can turn from sweet and lullaby like motifs into darkly rich threatening and powerful pieces that infuse a sense of danger and create an atmosphere that is thick with apprehension and unease. To say that this is an accomplished work is simply not enough, this is a score that is masterful and powerful and one that establishes itself almost immediately, the composers creating a work that is sublimely virulent yet melodic and soothing at the same time. I love the way in which they utilise strings, low woods and choral support which is I suppose ironically “ELFMAN-ISH”. The use of a ticking clock in several of the cues attract one’s attention with the composition on each occasion rising from the simple tick tick sound, at times transforming into subdued or haunting tone poems but more often than not turning into themes which are sinister or unsettling, that either build gradually into taught and thunderous crescendo’s or move swiftly from 0 to 60 towards a full on and spellbinding no holds barred onslaught of symphonic and synthetic magnificence. The music is haunting as in unforgettable and it is also a score that you will want to return to as soon as you have finished listening to it. Accomplished, fantastical and Herrmann-esque in places, with guttural low woods and jagged brass lines and stabs being woven through sinewy, swirling, driving or urgent sounding string passages with at times organ making an entrance to fashion riveting, terrifying and icy sounding musical moments. It’s a delight, and a pleasure to encounter, savour and experience. One for your collection, a must have item. Available on La La Land records. Highly recommended.
Who is the BAT MAN well the music for BATMAN is definitely firmly in the hands of composer Danny Elfman, the dark, ominous and rich themes that he created for Tim Burtons original BATMAN movie back in 1989, this is certainly an iconic score and one which I have to say for me personally can never be beaten. I remember when it was announced that Elfman was to score the movie I was a little surprised but as soon as I heard the opening notes I knew straight away that this was something fresh, something exciting and something that would be lasting and special. Listening to the music now some 25 years on it still manages to surprise, delight and entertain me. In fact it was this score that made me start to take Elfman seriously as a film music composer his originality and gift to create impish and malevolent sounding themes that had a dark comedic undercurrent intrigued me and left me wanting more. His music underlined and also at times elevated the sometimes twisted scenarios and images created by Burton making them even more grotesquely attractive and compelling. The soundtrack to BATMAN has been released in many guises long playing record, Compact disc, expanded editions, re-recordings, suites by various orchestras etc etc but this particular release I have to say must be the definitive version. Produced by the ever industrious and its seems unstoppable LA LA LAND RECORDS this four disc set not only contains music from the first BATMAN movie but also includes the score from his second screen outing under the directorial supervision of Tim Burton, BATMAN RETURNS. Which originally Burton did not want to do, but was persuaded after being given even greater artistic freedom, the result was an even more offbeat and bizarre vehicle than its predecessor. In both cases Elfman’s music was an essential and important part of the filmmaking process, his over the top expansive anti hero vigilante thematic material enhancing supporting and driving the action on screen, drama and intrigue all ooze from his musical compositions, giving the Batman an uplifting but at the same time foreboding and macabre sounding soundtrack. Elfman’s BATMAN theme which is built around a six note motif has become as familiar as the Jaws theme or the opening flourishes of SUPERMAN to cinema goers and film music enthusiasts alike. The composer creating mad cap but dark musical passages for Batman, the Joker and the imposing and unsettling backdrop of Gotham city, BATMAN RETURNS gave Elfman even more scope to create thematic motifs as he was given the opportunity to create musical signatures for two more cunning and twisted adversaries in the forms of THE PENGUIN and also the feline temptress with very sharp claws CATWOMAN.
So when I write this about the LA LA LAND four disc set of Elfman,s BATMAN scores its not really a review, it’s a personal statement saying how ingenious his scores are and how inventive and innovative he was and still is. At the time of scoring these movies Elfman I suppose was a virtual newcomer to the art of film scoring although he had already worked on a number of projects, but his music was instantly recognisable as being Elfman, fitting Burton’s take on the caped crusader like the proverbial glove. This is an excellent release, filled with so many informative notes and also containing snippets of inside info on both movies and their scores, a track by track analysis and numerous images from both movies, do you need this in your collection? YES YOU DO ….
Back in the 1960s the original PLANET OF THE APES burst onto cinema screens and begun one of cinema’s most successful series of movies. As a young boy I remember taking an unofficial afternoon off from school to go and see the first in the cycle and was immediately struck and intrigued by this original and exciting movie. What also attracted me even more was the haunting musical score by Jerry Goldsmith. I think it was probably this movie and its score that made me realize just how important music was in film, especially the hunt scene with the use of a rams horn on the soundtrack which heralded the arrival of apes on horseback with rifles chasing and riding down mute humans in a world which had been turned upside down by nuclear war. I followed the series but for me none of the sequels really hit the mark or made that much of an impression upon me in the film or score departments. Yes, the scores were good and the movies for the most part were entertaining, but I felt after BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES the series kind of lost it’s way a little. So when I heard about plans to revive the series or even begin a new cycle of Ape films I was, shall we say, a little apprehensive. I felt a little better when I heard it was director Tim Burton who would helm the new version, and also even more settled when it was announced that Danny Elfman would score the movie. Burton injected darkness into the story. In fact, although based around the same or similar storyline to that of the original version, this new movie was tougher, more hard hitting, darker, more menacing and in many ways more plausible or real. The musical score is one of Elfman’s most accomplished and polished works. He created an entire landscape of diverse percussive sounds and effects and fuses these elements to create the foundation for his innovative, quirky and ominous soundtrack. The composer straight away sets the scene and paints a threatening and frightening picture with his darkly rich and foreboding opening theme, “The Main Titles (Film Version)” track 1 (disc 1). This pounding and relentless music which accompanies the impressive title sequence begins out in space but soon segues into a close up of ape armour, clothing, headgear and weapons etc.
The music works incredibly well in the opening sequence and creates a perfect and befitting atmosphere. Percussion is the foundation as I have already said but Elfman builds on this and adds malevolent sounding brass and low strings, combining these with electronic effects and an overall sound which can only now be associated with this composer as in brass rising and falling and being punctuated by percussion and driving strings. The theme builds and intensifies growing in urgency and tension; the composer masterfully creating a perfect accompaniment to the images and establishing a powerful and imposing musical foothold on the proceedings.
Having always loved Goldsmiths’s “Hunt” music in the original I was curious as to what director Burton would do and, more importantly, what Elfman would conjure up for the hunt scene in the new version, if indeed there was a hunt sequence. I am glad to say there was and Burton acquitted himself well and so did Elfman. Track 4 (disc 1) “Pod Escape/New World/The Hunt”, is an urgent and frenzied composition from the offset. Central character Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) attempts to break out of his escape pod after it has crash landed in a dense jungle and is sinking in a pond. Elfman provides this sequence with suitably frantic music, high brass and equally furious strings commence proceedings, but these are short-lived and a lull seems to fall on the composition but this quiet interlude is also short lived and soon we hear the underlying apes theme emerging from the depths of the cue; brass then builds and gains momentum, ferocity and tempo. Manic sounding percussive components rule the day and establish a fearful and threatening background, underlining and punctuating the blaring and forceful sounding brass – Elfman setting in place an unstoppable force of instrumentation which seems to force its way forward, giving no quarter to anyone or anything. Track 22 (disc 1) “Preparing for Battle” is a composition full to overflowing with tension and is real edge-of-the-seat material – the sequence appears close to the movies conclusion and Thade (the ape leader portrayed marvellously by actor Tim Roth) has massed his army ready to attack the humans, his aim being to wipe them out completely. He sends the first wave of simian warriors into battle and they launch a terrifying charge at their foe accompanied by Elfman’s equally fearful, terrorizing and powerful music. The attack is quelled by Davidson as he unleashes the full blast of a space crafts blaster upon the advancing apes, killing many and stunning others.
Elfman utilizes growling brass and martial sounding percussion interweaved with strings to add a sense of urgency. He builds the tension well with his amalgamation of percussive sounds and effects which dominate the cue and are bolstered by brass and gain energy to become a frenzied, chaotic sounding combination of elements, but work effectively within the context of the movie and create an atmosphere of nervousness and dread. This release from La La Land Records is for me a dream come true, for it contains the entire film score on two discs which include a number of alternate cues and bonus tracks plus a handful of source music cues. Also included on a third disc is the 2001 soundtrack album. The set has a total running time of 212 minutes, 42 seconds. It is beautifully presented and packaged with great art work and graphics plus wonderful liner notes from Jeff Bond.